May 25

Addicting Granola w/ Coconut and Pistachios

I woke with the strange craving for granola the other day. I cannot tell you why, I just wanted some. And just like a craving usually goes, I had none! I had all the ingredients, but none prepped and I was not about to make some. Yes it is easy to make, but at 4 A.M. I do not think Brian would have appreciated me whipping up a batch while he was fast asleep.  Besides, I was ready to walk out the door to get to work. Today, a plain bowl of oatmeal would have to do.

Tossing all the granola ingredients together.

Tossing all the granola ingredients together.

Now I have listed a previous recipe for granola on here. That recipe had hazelnuts, and I loved eating it with raspberries and yogurt. But this batch I made with coconut! Nice big flakes of coconut along with pistachios. I used brown rice syrup as my sweetener because it is more mild than honey or maple syrup…You see I wanted the natural sweetness of the coconut, and other nuts and seeds I used to stand out a bit more. That is the beauty of granola. You can easily tweak it to match you craving – nuts, seeds, grains, fruits, sweeteners; the possibilities are endless.

Granola, baked and cooling.

Granola, baked and cooling.

So the other afternoon while I was home, I gathered my ingredients, tossed them all together, and baked it all off – stirring it frequently so that it baked evenly and gathered nice little clumps of nuttiness. Once it was cooled I stored it in a large jar on our kitchen counter. If it was in plain sight I knew we would make use of it. Each morning this week I was more than pleased scooping my granola and pairing it with some sliced strawberries along with almond milk. I will admit that there were a couple of times Brian and I helped our selves to a handful just as a snack. This recipe is delicious, addicting, and now all gone! I think when I am done writing this I am off to make another batch. I know I will be looking for it when 4 A.M. rolls around again!

Coconut and Pistachio Granola with fresh Strawberries and Almond Milk.

Coconut and Pistachio Granola with fresh Strawberries and Almond Milk.

Addicting Granola w/ Coconut and Pistachios (Makes about 6 cups)

**Notes: almost any of these ingredients can be found at Whole Foods, or trader Joe’s. The coconut chips, pistachios, and other nuts and seeds are best raw when starting so that they roast and bake all together.

3 cups rolled oats

1 1/2 cups coconut chips

1 cup pistachios

1/4 cup of sesame seeds

1/4 cup of chia seeds

1/4 cup of flax seeds

1 tsp of fine sea salt

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup of brown rice syrup (you can sub honey or real maple syrup)

1 tbsp Vanilla extract

First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a lager bowl place your oats, coconut chips, pistachios, sesame seeds, flax seeds, and chia seeds. ver the top sprinkle it with you sea salt.

Next, in a small bowl mix your vegetable oil, your brown rice syrup, and vanilla extract. Pour the mixture over the oat mix and toss it well.

Meanwhile, have two sheet pans lined with parchment paper. When mixture is all tossed and coated divide the mixture evenly between the two pans.  Place the pans in the center of your oven and let it bake for about 15 minutes before removing to stir the mixtures. Repeat this every 10 – 15 minutes until the mixture is quite dark and evenly roasted. (Takes about 40 minutes to an hour.) Remove the pans from the oven and let cool about 20 minutes before handling.

Finally, once the mixture is cool you can store it in an air tight container for about 2 weeks. Serve it up as you wish – milk, yogurt, nut milks, and any assorted fruit you wish.

May 21

Spanish Pea Soup and a morning with my dogs.

I adore peas. Brian on the other hand cannot stand them. Doesn’t want to find one on the end of his fork, let alone ever taste one. This is a bit of a disappointment on my part, although the way I look at it is that I get to enjoy them all the more when he is not around.

Martini and Latte Walking along the beach.

Martini and Latte Walking along the beach.

Being that it is spring, peas are at their prime. They are super bright and sweet in flavor. I have been admiring them at the markets, but waiting for the perfect opportunity (aka: when Brian is not around) to prepare some. As luck should have it Brian had to go to away for the weekend for a business trip. Is it bad to say I was a tad excited? This means I get to have one on one time with my dogs and I also get to eat all the peas I want!

Martini wandering on her own.

Martini wandering on her own.

As for more perfect timing that week, I came home from work to catch the Barefoot Contessa making a Spanish Pea Soup. It was simple, straight forward, and looked luscious. I was dead set on making it. Now the Barefoot Contessa made it with chicken stock and when serving topped them with crispy pieces of ham. I may not eat meat but I knew exactly how to adapt it all. I would sub out the chicken stock for a veggie stock, and for the ham, I replace it with some crispy tempeh bacon.

Latte splashing around and looking for fish.

Latte splashing around and looking for fish.

So on Sunday morning I woke early to spend the day with my dogs. We headed out to the beach. The tide was out, and I let Martini and Latte off leash to roam as they please. It was a beautiful morning. We wondered up and down the beach, splashed in puddles, listened to the sea otters in a distance, and watched a few sail boats. It really was a perfect morning and a great way to start a day. Later on, once we were home, I was whipping up the soup to enjoy. As the dogs snoozed and snored – dreaming of the beach I am sure – I was enjoying the Spanish Pea Soup. It had a wonderfully bright green hue, it’s texture was velvety, and it was packed full of luscious pea flavor. The crispy tempeh bacon added a contrast and it’s smoky, savory flavor complimented to natural sweetness of the peas. I add a dab of creme fresh to it all and it is my belief that it was flawless. I know it may sound awful to some, but I am so happy Brian had to go away. I now have a great memory of my morning with my girls, and I got to enjoy a fantastic soup that I have leftovers all to myself!

Spanish Pea Soup

Spanish Pea Soup

Spanish Pea Soup (serves 6)

1/4 cup chopped shallots (about 2 large shallots)

1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)

4 cups chicken stock, or veggie stock

2 pounds peas, fresh or frozen

extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 thin slices Spanish Serrano ham or tempeh bacon

Creme Fresh or Sour Cream for serving

First, place a deep heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Once warmed through add the shallots and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute.

Next, add the peas (fresh or frozen) and cover with the stock. Sprinkle 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Purée with an immersion blender until coarsely puréed. Taste it all and season it with salt and pepper if you feel it is needed.

Then, if using the ham, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Place the ham in a single layer on a sheet pan and roast for 5 to 8 minutes, until crisp. If using the tempeh, heat through a bit of olive oil in a nonstick pan and sear the bacon until crispy on each side.

Finally, when ready to serve, ladle the soup into your bowls. Lay your ham or bacon over the top and if using spoon a bit of creme fresh on top.

May 18

Vanilla Rice Pudding with Roasted Rhubarb

I finally shook off the travel dust last week. I am settled back into home. I have been taking long walks with my girls – Martini and Latte, enjoying spring in Seattle, and started back in on my urban hikes.

One of the many stairs I climb on some of my urban hikes. I waited until the people around subsided to snap this. So pretty and tranquil if you ask me.

One of the many stairs I climb on some of my urban hikes. I waited until the people around subsided to snap this. So pretty and tranquil if you ask me.

If you are wondering what an urban hike is I will tell you. It is just what it sounds like; it is a steady pace I take walking across the city. I know that there are many hiking trails at the parks and in the outlining areas of the city. But due to my work schedule, my hours are off from most I know. I do not like hiking on my own out on a trail in seclusion, there is a bit of an unsafe feeling about it. Maybe that is because I am a female? Either way hiking across the city has just as much appeal. I take different routes depending on the day. I walk along the water, climb steep hills, go up and down stairs, run through different neighborhoods, and admire the city. Within an hour I do about 4 miles, and there are always people around.

Getting everything together to maKe some great Vanilla Rice PUDDING.

Getting everything together to maKe some great Vanilla Rice PUDDING.

The other day when I got home from work and before I went for a hike I started a batch of Vanilla Rice Pudding. I will confess that I never made a rice pudding I liked; that is until this past year. While traveling in January I picked up The Best of 2015 – America’s Test Kitchen magazine to read on the plane. In it was a detailed recipe of Rice Pudding. I had to give it a try, because anything from American’s Test Kitchen I completely and totally trust. I have made it three times since then and it is perfect. This time I wanted to serve it with Roasted Rhubarb I had in mind, not to mention I had some left in the refrigerator –  a match made in heaven!

Vanilla Rice Pudding cooling.

Vanilla Rice Pudding cooling.

Once the rice pudding was made and cooling I went on an urban hike, walked my girls, and started in on dinner. Once Brian was home we enjoyed our dinner, but as a surprise I presented him with the rice pudding. Just like the times I have tried this recipe previously, it had a great vanilla flavor and was super creamy with a great texture. When it was paired with the tart and sweet roasted rhubarb the flavor paring and textures were wonderful. Eating a dessert this delicious makes me glad I did a hike. I mean it is so good it is hard to just have once serving. I wish rhubarb season would never end, so I can always eat the rice pudding just like this. Thank you America’s Test Kitchen, you have debunked my rice pudding ways and opened my eyes to how gloriously simple a great rice pudding can be.

All ready to dive in on a great dessert.

All ready to dive in on a great dessert.

Vanilla Rice Pudding (serves 6)

6 cups whole milk

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 cup long grain white rice (I used Jasmine)

1 tbsp vanilla extract

First, combine 5 1/2 cups milk, sugar, and salt in a large heavy bottomed sauce pan over medium-high heat.

Next, stir in your rice and reduce the heat to low. Cook it at a gentle simmer adjusting the heat as needed. Be sure to stir it often. You want to prevent scorching, and you want to simmer it until  the rice is soft. It will thicken at this point as well, almost to the consistency of yogurt. (About 50 minutes to and hour.) Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla.

Finally, transfer the pudding to a large bowl and let it cool about 1 – 2 hours before refrigerating. Refrigerate it until chilled, and before serving stir in the remaining 1/2 cup of milk.

Rhubarb - roasted and cooling fresh out of the oven.

Rhubarb – roasted and cooling fresh out of the oven.

Roasted Rhubarb (makes about 1 pint)

4 – 5 long rhubarb stalks; trimmed and sliced into 1 1/2 inch pieces

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 tsp ground cardamon

1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 cup water

1 tsp butter

First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. In a bowl toss together your sugar, cardamon, and cinnamon. Take a 9-10 inch baking dish or pie pan and butter it generously.

Next, take your rhubarb and toss it in with your sugar mix. To this mixture add your water and vanilla and mix well. Pour it into your prepared pan and be sure your rhubarb is evenly distributed.

Finally, place in the center of your oven to roast for about 30-45 minutes; stirring it half way. You  are looking for the rhubarb to be tender. Once tender remove from the oven to cool. Best to serve at room temperature, but can be stored in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up tp a week.

May 09

Raspberry and Rhubarb French Tart

I ate a brownie the other day. I admit, that it was everything that I thought it would be: soft, chewy, moist, and had a deep chocolatey flavor. I ate a third of it and found myself wrapping it back up because I wanted to savor the rest of it and make it last. On a recent trip, while trekking though a terminal to catch my next flight, I stopped and grabbed a salad and that brownie. Somewhere over the mid western states I finished the rest of that brownie…I made it last and it got me through the last hour and a half of travel without my belly rumbling.

Always roll out dough in the shape of your pan. This helps forming the dough to the pan without patching.

Always roll out dough in the shape of your pan. This helps forming the dough to the pan without patching.

I should confess that as I hurried to eat my salad before my next flight boarded I started to think: Could it be that airport food improved – this salad is quite good?!? Then, I grabbed a coffee as I was back at the airport heading home to Seattle and it was terrible. Maybe there have only been small improvements where airport food is concerned? Either way, I am ready to be home. I miss my husband, I miss my dogs, I miss my everyday life.

By letting the fruit sit within the sugar allows the tartness of the rhubarb to mellow out.

By letting the fruit sit within the sugar allows the tartness of the rhubarb to mellow out.

I was talking with my husband the night I was packing to leave on this trip and he asked if I was putting the tart recipe I recently made on here. I told him it was just an average recipe, but he assured me that there was nothing average about something that tastes really good. You see, I have been making these tarts for years. It is one of those effortlessly recipes that you can always whip together and serve. You can alway change up the fruit you fill it with, and if you have cold butter and flour on hand the crust is just your basic pate brise that you can make within minutes – probably why I always have some in the refrigerator or freezer.

All ready to bake.

All ready to bake.

A couple of weeks ago we had some friends over for dinner and I made a Raspberry and Rhubarb French Tart for dessert. We were having pizzas and I wanted a straight forward, simple, no fuss dessert to accompany it. This fruit tart is light and tasty without being heavy on the palette. It pairs well with just about any meal really. I am thinking that If the rhubarb I still had on hand before I left is still good I will be making it again once I am home. I love baking something once I am home. It makes everything seem right in the world and the nice aroma always shakes the “travel dust” off.

Raspberry and Rhubarb French Tart Fresh out of the oven.

Raspberry and Rhubarb French Tart Fresh out of the oven.

Raspberry and Rhubarb French Tart (makes one 9 inch tart)

(*Note – For this tart I used a rectangular pan for the ease of cutting and serving easy pieces, but any round or square pan works well too,)

3 cups raspberry (fresh or frozen)

1 1/2 cups sliced rhubarb, about 1/2 – 1 inch pieces

2/3 cup of sugar

1/4 cup of honey

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp of flour

1 tbsp of butter

1/2 batch of Pate Brise (tart/pie crust)

First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Roll your dough out on a well floured surface to about 1/4 inch thickness. Try to roll it out to the shape of your tart pan. (This makes it easier when assembling.) Press the dough into your pan gently. Dock it with a fork or knife along the bottom and place the pan in the freezer to chill.

Next, in a bowl place your raspberries, rhubarb, sugar, honey, vanilla, and flour and toss it all together. Set it aside and let it macerate for 20-30 minutes.

Then, remove the tart pan from the freezer and place on a sheet pan. Gently, Pour the raspberry filling into the prepared tart pan. Be sure that the filling is level and even all the way across it. Place thin pieces of the 1 tbsp of butter across the top of the filling staying clear from the edges. Place in the oven for about 45 minutes rotating it half way through.

Finally, remove from the oven when the edges of the tart crust (pate brise) are golden and the filling is bubbly and reduced a bit. Let it cool about 15 minutes before removing the tart pan sides and serving. This can stay at room temperature for a couple of hours. If placing in the refrigerator wrap in foil, but before eating / serving be sure to bring it back to room temperature for it always tastes better that way.

Apr 30

Artichokes with a Ramp Puree

When spring begins to show my mind starts to race…Asparagus, morels, artichokes, peas, fiddle head ferns, rhubarb, fava beans, ramps!!! Let us not forget the ramps. I can go on but I will contain myself. It is just that I get so thrilled about all these new and special fruits and veggies when they finally decide to make an appearance.

Ramps, cleaned and trimmed

Ramps, cleaned and trimmed

Living in the Pacific North West I have come to notice that we are extremely fortunate to all of these items and the fact that they can all be found locally here. Growing up in New Jersey and spending a decade in Phoenix I saw my fair share of wonderful local produce. But in Seattle and the surrounding areas there are fantastic forgers. They show up at the markets with different findings each week and it is amusing to try and guess what they might have from week to week.The findings of spring are very exciting in contrast to that of the other areas I have lived. I admit that I never had a ramp before living here, let alone one that was sourced within miles of where I now call home. Walking through one of the farmer’s markets this past week one of the stands had bags and bags of ramps available. I scooped them up, cradled them in my arms, and  thanked the vendor for their work.

Ramp Puree

Ramp Puree

If you are not familiar with a ramp it definitely has it’s own complex identity. It has quite a strong (when fresh) aroma of garlic. It has a thin white base similar to that of a scallion, but the top is leafy and green. The ones I picked up had their roots still attached and were very gritty. I filled the sink up with water and washed them well. The roots were trimmed, the outer skin of the white base easily slipped away, and the leafy tops were brushed to rid of any remaining dirt. Once the cleaning was done I started in on my dinner. These ramps deserved something special to be parred with!

Trimmed and prepped artichokes ready for the oven.

Trimmed and prepped artichokes ready for the oven.

I purchased these huge globe artichokes a day prior and this was the perfect paring for the ramps. I peeled, trimmed, snipped, and scraped away at the artichokes. Steamed them in the oven and made a wonderful ramp puree to brush and drizzle on the cooked artichokes. In the puree I added some Romano cheese and fresh mint, I was afraid that without the mint the garlic tone would be way too pungent against the artichoke. When it came to plating it all I served them over a bed of millet pilaf and sprinkled them with toasted hazelnuts. The whole dish was fantastic. The tender sweetness of the artichoke was a great duet with the bold and bright ramp puree. As we finished our plates and licked our fingers (yes, you need to eat artichokes with your hands), this meal left us grinning, and now I am just wondering how many more times I can make this before the season of ramps and artichokes are gone till next year?!?

Artichoke and Ramp Puree, over a Millet Pilaf and topped with toasted Hazelnuts.

Artichoke and Ramp Puree, over a Millet Pilaf and topped with toasted Hazelnuts.

Ramp Puree (yeilds about 1 1/2 cups)

2 – 2 1/2 cup ramps, washed and trimmed

1/4  cup fresh mint

1/4 cup grated Ramano cheese

1/2 cup olive oil

sea salt, to taste

Place your ramps and mint in a base of a food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Pulse it all to begin to break it down. Adding a little bit of olive oil at a time while processing to emulsify it all together and bring it all together into a smooth paste. Fold in the Ramano cheese and season with sea salt to taste.

Arichokes (serves 2 – 4)

2 large gloobe artichokes, stem intact

2 lemons

2-3 tbsp olive oil

sea salt and fresh black  pepper

Hazelnuts, toasted and chopped

First, pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees. With a very sharp knife, trim the bottom of your artichoke stem and cut back the top inch or 1&1/2 inch off the tip of your artichoke. Remove the outer most leaves by pulling them off (about the first 3 layers), and then with a pair of kitchen scissors cut the top half of the leaves off all the way around until you see the leaves are a lighter shade of green. (This is to remove the majority of the most rough and fibrous parts of the leaves.)

After, the leaves have been fully trimmed, carefully slice the artichoke length wise from top to bottom of the stem. With a spoon or knife, gently carve out the choke center until the fuzzy center and sharp leaves pull away cleanly. Using a vegetable peeler strip back the outer layer of the stem and the bottom outside half of your artichoke. This is to reveal all the tender eatable parts of the vegetable. Place the trimmed and carved artichoke in a bowl full of water with one lemon cut and juiced into it. Repeat with the remaining artichoke.

When both artichokes are prepped, place them cut size down in a baking dish large enough to hold them all. fill the baking dish with about 2 inches of water. Slice the remaining lemon and and place it around the artichoke. Drizzle the olive oil over it all and season it with a bit of sea salt and black pepper. Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven for 30 – 40 minutes depending on size of your artichoke.

Before removing the artichoke from the oven test to see if they are done. If a knife easily pierces the flesh of the artichoke it is ready. Remove from the oven and let cool about 5  minutes before serving.

Millet Pilaf (make 2 cups)

1/2 cup of millet

2-3 cups of vegetable stock

1 tbsp of butter

1 carrot,chopped small

1 large shallot, chopped small

First, place the millet and two cups of the stock in a medium pan and gently simmer for 15 minutes.

Next, add the shallot and carrot to your pan along with the butter and stir well. Continue to gently simmer until the millet it cooked though. You might need to add another cup of stock or water to your liking.

Finally, when the millet is tender and liquid is absorbed remove from the heat and serve.

To Plate and Serve: Ladle a bit of your pilaf onto the center of your plate. Place the artichoke over this in the center of the plate and drizzle the top and stem with your Ramp Puree. Sprinkle the hazelnuts over the top and serve.

Apr 19

Lentil Stew in Berbere Spice, plus getting comfortable with new surroundings.

When I first moved to Phoenix, Az. I was not sure I was going to like it. I mean I moved there from New Jersey where I spent the majority of my life living about 20 minutes from Manhattan. Living there you could go in just about any direction and encounter Polish food shops that make you smell like a kielbasa by the time you walk out, Spanish food that would make you swoon, Italian delis in abundance, Middle Eastern food shops that had cumin aromas, Chinese take out counters a plenty, sandwich shops where freshly sliced cured meats were pilled high on hard rolls, bakeries that baked crispy crusty bread, and get cookies from shops that melted on your tongue and went perfectly with coffee or tea.

While living in the Trenton and Princeton area of New Jersey in my last few years there you could stand on almost any intersection and hear language from anywhere in the world. With all the universities, colleges, and a huge Seminary there I felt in some ways I was more submerged in ethnicity than I was in the Northern half of the state. It was living there that Brian and I fell in love with eating sushi and spending endless hours in coffee shops sipping cappuccinos and pondering thoughts on life. It still is my most favorite area of New Jersey…and as for that coffee shop I spent endless hours in – I walked in there about two years ago and the barista looked at me and asked: ”Danielle, would you like your usual?” I kid you not. Almost 12 years later not only were some of the same staff around, but they remembered me and my drink! You do not find occurrences like that too often.

Lats time we visited our favorite coffee shop in Princeton, NJ

Last time we visited our favorite coffee shop in Princeton, NJ – Small World Coffee

When I moved to Phoenix there was such an adjustment. I didn’t find those ethnic shops on every corner. I couldn’t find a hard roll, kielbasa was vacuum sealed in plastic at the supper market, attempts at Chinese take out for a while were a bust, and of the Italian delis we explored had a somewhat sterile feeling. There might not have been Spanish restaurants to stroll into, but there was Mexican. Plenty of Mexican food. Tacos, tortas, chilis, pasole, menudo, enchiladas, and to our discovery- salsas came in so many varieties besides hot, medium or mild. We really enjoyed exploring all that we could about Mexican food.

But one evening after dinner I was telling Brian I felt there was something missing living in Phoenix. I was not homesick for New Jersey, but I missed the variety that New Jersey offered us. Everything here was a drive away. There was no walking to a corner store to grab what you need. I also didn’t feel there was a place to go and hang out at like we did at the coffee shop in Princeton. There was Starbucks (yuck!) but that was about it. They were not open late, they were a drive away, and they did not make you feel like you want to spend and hour there philosophizing. That is when Brian told me he passed a new coffee shop that opened up on his way to work. Put your shoes on and lets go. Low and behold a shop that was roasting it’s own beans right there. The owners were working the counter and the espresso they poured was damn good. They were open early, and stayed late. Finally some bit of normalcy for us.

The scenery and surrounding of Phoenix were a bit different for me to get use to.

The scenery and surrounding of Phoenix were a bit different for me to get use to.

About a month later I was reading an article about an Ethiopian restaurant in Tempe. I begged Brian to go, and finally he gave in to give it a try. When we walked in you were hit with an aroma of spices, it almost made me drunk. The nice lady who waited on us explained to us how to order and how to eat in an Ethiopian manor. It was truly a divine experience. We at with our hands and marveled at the many stewed dishes in front of us along with the Injera (crepe like bread made with teff). The best dish there was a lentil stew cooked in berbere spices. We left there with full bellies and senses pleased.  Between the coffee shop Brian discovered and this Ethiopian restaurant, living in Phoenix became a bit more tolerable.

Fast forward to today in Seattle. There are plenty of ethnic food shops to wonder into. The aromas of them are amazing and it is not uncommon we find ourselves the only non ethnic people in any one of these places. There are coffee shops on every corner, and I do not have to get in my car to get everywhere in this city. I also discovered a spice shop (again in waking distance) that sold berbere mix. (If you want to know more about this spice mix or purchase it for yourself you can find it here.) I picked some up and have been playing around trying to recreate the lentil dish of that restaurant in Tempe. Low and behold I have come close, and possibly as close as I think I could. Brian and I have been enjoying these lentils with some rice and a bright green salad on the side to cut the rich spiciness of the lentil stew. Although I have not yet attempted to make Injera, this stew is more than satisfying to curb our indulgent cravings. No matter where you move to or travel to it may take some adjustments to get use to. But what I did learn I carry with me…like lentils stewed in berbere. One of the many things I cherish and learned while living in Arizona.

Lentil Stew in Berbere Spice over Rice.

Lentil Stew in Berbere Spice over Rice.

Stewed Lentils in Berbere Spice (serves 4) 

(*Note: We personally like this mixture a bit spicy. The rice – in my opinion – mellows out the spiciness. If you prefer things a bit more mild feel free to use 1 tbsp of berber spice mix to start. you can always add more in the end.)

3/4 cup lentil (brown, green, or black variety are good)

1 small onion, chopped small

2 cloves of garlic chopped

3 tbsp of tomato paste

1 &1/2 tbsp of berber spice, ground

6 cups vegetable stock or water

sea salt to taste

First, place all the above ingredients (besides the sea salt) in a heavy bottomed pot. Place the pot over medium heat and bring to a simmer.

Next, keep the pot at a gentle simmer. Be sure to stir it often. You are looking for the lentils to absorb almost all of the liquid of your pot. The ruminates will form a bit of a sauce.

Finally, once the lentils are cooked though and your mixture has thickened you can remove it from the heat. Season it with sea salt to your preference. If you feel you would like your mixture a bit more soupy feel free to stir in a bit more of water or stick to loosen it us a bit. If you would like a smoother consistency feel free to remove a couple of ladles of your lentils and puree in a food processor and return the mixture back to the pot and stir it all together. Serve while warm.

Apr 13

Cabbage, Sugar Snap Peas, and Crimini Mushroom Saute

There are many times when I get so busy between work and general life stuff that I begin to feel like I am not sure if I am coming or going. For reasons out of my control, or quite possibly because I can be a control freak, that is just the way I have been feeling lately. I have been on the go for weeks lately and it somewhat feels like I have been running a marathon. The beauty of it is I know there is a finish line in near sight. In the meantime I keep running, it is all good and it will balance itself in the end.

Is it uncommon to not want to cook when I have days, or weeks, like this? It can be almost too comfortable to run to the corner and pick up some Chinese, Pho, Pizza, or Thai; all within two blocks from here – such a great perk of living in this city. And let us not forget that we have recently discovered that an Indian restaurant nearby delivers… all too comfortable and easy.

IMG_9370

Cabbage, Sugar Snap Peas, and Crimini Mushroom Saute

After work the other day I walked over to one of the vendors at the market and picked up some great vegetables and fruit that are all in season and came from nearby farms. It was time to get back on track with cooking something nice for us with the refrigerator stocked with vegetables and a big bowl of fruit on the table things seemed more balanced, more normal, and functional.

One of the greatest things about cooking seasonally is that you can throw just about anything together with what you have on hand and it will always be good. The flavors and textures will compliment each other and blend in a lovely way, in some ways it is a cooking no-brainer. Sautéing savoy cabbage, mushrooms, and sugar snap peas is like a match made in heaven. I finished off the veggies with a bit of cream and it was sultry. It all was harmonious and seemed easier than take out. Cooking for yourself makes the finish line seem so approachable; that, and I am for sure it does a body good!

Ready to dig in and enjoy!

Ready to dig in and enjoy!

Cabbage, Sugar Snap Peas, and Crimini Mushroom Saute (Serves 2 – 4)

1 small head of savoy cabbage; trimmed, cored, and thinly sliced

8 – 10 crimini mushrooms; washed, trimmed, and sliced

1 cup of sugar snap peas; trimmed and cut into fourths

1 large shallot, timed and chopped small

2 tbsp butter

1/4 cup of cream

1/2 tsp dried thyme

sea salt and black pepper to taste

First, place a large 12 inch saute pan over medium heat. Once heated through add the butter to the pan and melt. Add the mushrooms and sauce until softened and they release their moisture. Once the mushrooms are soft and tender you can remove them and reserve them in a bowl for later.

Next, add the cabbage and shallot and keep stirring until it is softened a bit. To this add your sugar snap peas and stir gently. To the pan add your thyme and about 1/2 cup of water and let it all simmer and steam it all together.

Then, once the liquid in the pan begins to simmer out add your mushrooms back in and stir it well. Season the mixture with sea salt and pepper to taste.

Finally, stir your cream into the pan and coat all of your veggie mixture. Once it is heated through remove from the heat and serve.

Apr 03

Sticky Toffee Date Cake

About two years ago Brian and I traveled to London for a week. We toured museums, gazed at some awesome art, strolled though the city, saw lots of fantastic architecture, and indulged in many fantastic food items. We ate a variety of different ethnic foods within the first couple of days when I noticed that we are in London and have not had any traditional British food. So I asked the front dest at our hotel – Where do I find a good British meal? They responded with an answer that was so obvious I felt a little dumb – At any pub you will find a great traditional British meal!

So I started surveying the menus of all the pubs we came across. The menus were all pretty much the same. That was until we were walking though Notting Hill and stumbled upon a pretty large, yet quaint pub. We looked over the menu and get this…there was even vegetarian options! We sat down, had ourselves a pint each and dinned on some wonderful British food. The waitress told us that they had a great StickyToffee Pudding for dessert. You did not need to tell me twice about that. We ordered it to split, and when it came it was warm and wonderful. We scooped away at this moist and delicious toffee pudding. I don’t think we even really said anything to one another, just grinned and mumered – MMMMMMMM! But this dessert was not really a pudding. It was more like a cake that was baked into a ramekin that had a toffee sauce poured over top of it that was absorbed by the cake. Cake or pudding, either way, it was great.

Sticky Toffee Date Cake - Ready to serve!

Sticky Toffee Date Cake – Ready to serve!

Two years later I am still thinking about that dessert so much so that I am writing about it now. I needed to make it to see if I could get anything close to it in flavor and texture. I researched recipes and finally came up with something that I thought might just work. I made it and surprised Brian when he came home from work. He was just as thrilled as I was and after eating it (and going back for seconds) we both agreed that it might possibly be better than the one we had in London. I needed a second opinion. Brian wrapped up a few of the others and brought them into some of his coworkers to enjoy. They all thanked us and exclaimed it was terrific! Maybe this recipe I worked on was perfect?!? So this past week when my cousin Judy’s husband was here on business I made it again. I figured it was a perfect dessert for him since he previously lived in London for awhile. If anyone, he would give me an honest opinion. As he ate it he exclaimed that he loved it. He even told me it was better than the ones he tried while living or traveling in England. I was so pleased. I just might have the perfect recipe on my hands!

Date Cakes cooling, right out of the oven.

Date Cakes cooling, right out of the oven.

So of course I needed to share it with you here. That and I packed up two of these little cakes for Judy, I knew her husband would fly home with them safely. The following day I received and email from her asking for the recipe…I guess she was won over by it too!

In the research I did about this dessert I found out that if you roll the cake in the toffee sauce (as opposed to just pouring it over the top)  your end result will be more moist. I also increased the amount of dates (yes, dates are in this dessert) to impart a more rich yet delicate flavor to the dessert besides giving the cake a more velvety feel. This cake is quite simple to make, takes almost no time to bake and making the sauce is strait forward enough that the most difficult thing about this recipe is waiting for it to cool before finishing it all off. I did restrain myself, but that just meant there were more for me to enjoy the next day. I think this is a must try for anyone; anyone who enjoys something sweet and moist with toffee sauce to go along with it. But that is no one but me I am sure!?!

Sticky Toffee Date Cake, ready to be eaten.

Sticky Toffee Date Cake, ready to be eaten.

Sticky Toffee Date Cake (Makes about 14 – 16 servings)

**AKA Sticky Toffee Pudding

CAKE

2 cups fresh dates (pitted)

1 cup boiling water

1 tbsp vanilla extract

2 scant cups flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

2 eggs

12 oz butter, plus more for greasing

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 tbsp molasses

2/3 cup milk

First, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour 14 – 16  molds (be it cup cake pan, ramekins, or silicone molds). Chop the dates by hand until you have a fine chop, or place the dates in the bowl of a food processor and pulse it until your dates are chopped quite finely. Place the chopped dates in a bowl and over it pour the boiling water. Let it sit and rest so that the dates plump up and soften.

Next, in a bowl place your butter and your brown sugar. Mix it together until it is light and fluffy, Add in your eggs, one at a time until they are evenly combined and your mixture is smooth. Stir in the vanilla and the molasses and mix until well combined.

Then, in a bowl place your flour along with your baking soda and baking powder. Whisk it together and add half of it too your butter mixture. Mix it until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. Follow with half of your milk and stir it in well. Repeat this and again make sure all is completely mixed together and smooth.

Meanwhile, strain off any of the excess water that may be in your dates, without pressing on them as you do so (you want the dates to stay as plump as possible). Gently stir the dates into your batter. It may look a bit uneven, but that is fine; it is just because they are so moist.

Finally, pour or scoop the batter into your pan / molds / ramekins until they are 1/3 full. Place them in the center of your oven and bake about 20 – 25 minutes, until they are firm and set to the touch. Let cool slightly before finishing with the sauce. (Directions and recipe below.)

TOFFEE SAUCE

2 cups dark brown sugar

4 oz butter, cut into small chunks

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 tbsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp molasses

First, place a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. In the pan place your butter and dark brown sugar stirring until your sugar is dissolved as the butter has melted.

Next, add the vanilla and molasses to your cream. Slowly add the mixture to your pan stirring it constantly. You are looking for the brown sugar mixture to smooth out. You can let it simmer just a bit, but not too much as you do not want to end up with a thick sauce. Just heat through snd simmer until mixture is nice and smooth.

Then, remove the sauce from the heat and remove your cakes from what you baked them in (they should be cooled by now). Gently dip, or roll the individual cakes in the sauce. and place them on a plate or platter. Poor the remainder of the sauce over the top of the cakes.

Finally, cakes are ready to serve as it. If you will not be serving them for a day or two it is best to cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate. It is best to remove from the refrigerator and bring to room temperature at east two hours before serving. When served be sure to scoop up the toffee sauce along with your cake.

Mar 25

Fresh Herb Omelette and Uncle Jimmy’s Wisdom

I was watching a TV show the other day (something I do not do often). In the show there was a breakup of a couple. In the long run I guess the premiss of the show was about being brave and moving on. As the show closed I found that I was tearing (again something I do not do often). The episode was just so touching to me. I questioned myself: Is there anything more raw than the ending of a relationship where you admit you’re sorry that it is over?

The whole thing made me think of my late Uncle Jimmy (I have written about him before here) and I had a flashback to the summer of 1993 when I graduated high school. My parents had some family over for a little B.B.Q. on a warm Sunday afternoon. We were all in the back yard, with my Uncle Frank & Aunt Fran and my Uncle Jimmy & Aunt Marge. My Uncle Jimmy looked at me and asked where Rob was. Rob was a boy I had dated through the school year. I explained to him that I did not think it was going to last between us. We were both going away to different colleges, and I was not sure we cared for each other enough to make it work.

My Uncle Jimmy in the late 1990's.

My Uncle Jimmy in the late 1990’s.

He looked at me with a concerned look and told all about his love for my aunt over the years. He explained to me that he always cared for my Aunt Marge. He told me about how they were young and she was not interested in a relationship. He explained that time passed and he always came by to see how my Aunt was, some time later as luck should have it she gave him a chance and they have been together ever since. Never feel sad about love not working out, he told me. Time will let love work itself out. In the meantime you have to live and be happy. (At the time he was telling me this he and my aunt must have been together about over 50 years.)

Eggs, and assorted Fresh Herbs for my Omelette.

Eggs, and assorted Fresh Herbs for my Omelette.

Like always, my Uncle Jimmy gave me so much wisdom. I always listened to him because in some ways it was so truthful and more honest than anything anyone else would have ever told me. If I did’t listen to him I might not be with my husband today. We met the summer my uncle and I had this conversation. My Uncle Jimmy was always full of good advice as far as I am concerned. I love thinking about things he said or expressed to me over the years.

Funny the things I remember, and can recall him telling me. Vividly I can remember him telling me about making omelettes. “I had a six egg omelette today. Keeps me strong!” I may not take him up on eating a six egg omelette, but when I make any omelette he is always on my mind. Personally I like to make my omelettes with a mixture of herbs to flavor it. I also like to be sure I get some golden brown hue on the eggs, I like the flavor it imparts on them. Most always I serve this with a fresh green salad and some oven roasted potatoes. If my Uncle Jimmy was still here I would gladly make one to share with him. I definitely think he would enjoy it. I am so thankful for the memories I have and his wisdom. I carry them in my heart.

Fresh Herb Omelette, ready to eat.

Fresh Herb Omelette, ready to eat.

Fresh Herb Omelette (serves 2)

*Note: you can use any mix of fresh herbs you feel fit. I generally l use parsley and rosemary in addition to what I used along with this one, but this is what I had on hand today. Feel free to adapt the herbs as you feel fit, but always be sure they are fresh.

4 large eggs

1/4 cup finely chopped herbs; dill, thyme, and oregano

3 tbsp heavy cream

2 tbsp of olive oil

sea salt and fresh black pepper, to taste

First, place a 9 inch nonstick pan over medium to high heat and heat through.

Next, crack your eggs into a mixing bowl and whisk well until all the yolks and whites are broken and combined. Add in the cream and whisk again.

Then, add your olive oil to the pan, while swirling it around to coat it well. Add your herb mix to the eggs and stir it well. Season the eggs with sea salt and fresh black pepper before adding the mixture to your hot pan.

Finally, gently tilt your pan back and forth to be sure your mixture is evenly distributed. I like to use a rubber spatula to gently nudge the edges of your egg all the way around to be sure it is not sticking to the pan. Easily flip your omelette over once it all seams set so that will gently brown on the opposite side. After a minute, and you are sure your egg is cooked through; you can slide it out of the pan and serve.

Mar 15

Vegetarian Egg Rolls

I have learned thus far in life that things are not always just one way. There are so many variations to just about everything in life. If you are like me, there is an enjoyment in learning every aspect and why. I use this approach almost always in food. I love to find out all the details, reasons, and varied possibilities that apply to any component or ingredient. This philosophy keeps your mind open and what it will sometimes do to your taste buds is priceless.

Vegetarian Egg Rolls with lettuce, soy sauce, and sweet chili sauce.

Vegetarian Egg Rolls with lettuce, soy sauce, and sweet chili sauce.

Growing up in New Jersey it was common to order Chinese take out. There was, and possible still is, a Chinese take-out just about every couple of miles. The kind of shop that has a kitchen, a counter, possibly a couple of tables, but that is about it. You phone in or walk in, place your order, and off you go with hot freshly prepared Chinese food packed neatly in foil or little cardboard containers. My sister and I often ate it for lunch with our mom or on a busy night when my dad was traveling. It was a fun little thing that “us girls” did. Each time our meals always came with pork fried rice and an egg roll. We loved to eat that pork fried rice with whatever main dish we combined it with – Cashew Chicken, General Tso, Sweet & Sour Pork, Egg Foo Young…the list can go on, don’t tempt me.

Veggies all shredded and ready for cooking.

Veggies all shredded and ready for cooking.

But the special part of the meal was the egg roll. I can always remember my sister and I loving to munch away and nibble on this wonderfully crispy fried and chewy deliciousness. These egg rolls I am speaking of were, and still are, large in size; possibly just shy from the size of a can of soda. They were always filled with shredded cabbage, other veggies, some mushroom, and ground pork.  We would always get the little plastic packets of duck sauce (which I have learned is just thin apricot preserve) to dip our egg roll into as we chewed away and grinned. My father knew we enjoyed egg rolls so much and he mentioned it to a co-worker he had who was from China. She made some of her own egg rolls for us as a treat. We were shocked to see that the egg rolls she made were tiny, enough for for just a few bites, and had a much different flavor. (It  was years latter that I came to know that flavor at Chinese Five Spice.) My mom and dad then explained to us that things can always be different depending of where they come from; different areas are known for different spices, vegetables, and so on.

Ginger, green onion, and garlic....all ready.

Ginger, green onion, and garlic….all ready.

As I grew up, traveled, and moved away, I always found it comforting to get some Chinese food and dine. I always compared it to the food my sister, mother and I dined on. I sometimes would ask the staff at the restaurant where they were from and take notice to the difference in the flavors from other places. It was my friend and lawyer Michael who taught me that his family (from Vietnam and Thailand but originated from China) always ate smaller egg rolls wrapped in lettuce leaves. I followed his lead and came to quite a liking of this. Your hand does not touch the fried exterior and the lettuce created a nice refreshing contrast in flavor. I had a co-worker named Ping here in Seattle who was from China. She often made us Chinese food for our family meals and taught me that just using garlic and keeping the veggies somewhat crunchy and fresh leads to more flavor then any sauce could ever do justice too. She also taught me how to “wrap” an egg roll. Mind you Ping was not even 5 foot tall, and her tiny hands and fingers whizzed away wrapping up those little egg rolls that always looked perfect. It was always amazing to watch her, and she was so fast at doing it.

Assembly line. Wrappers and water, filled, and rolled / wrapped. Staying organized is key.

Assembly line. Wrappers and water, filled, and rolled / wrapped. Staying organized is key.

Over the years I have tried to get a handle on making them myself. I have experimented trying best to match the flavors I enjoyed in my childhood and combined it with what I have learned from my travels and friends. The end result is quite tasty, and Brian and I enjoy them every now and again. The egg rolls we enjoy now are vegetarian, are less than half the size to what I and Brian grew up with, mildly spiced, and we eat them with lettuce along with soy sauce and sweet chili sauce to accompany them. Although I am still not as quick or fast like Ping when I make them, they are fun and delicious. Give it a try and I think you will be amazed by how simple they are and how you just made egg rolls yourself. Trying all those different egg rolls over the years has definitely paid off.

Enjoying the little egg rolls with lettuce and sweet chili dipping sauce.

Enjoying the little egg rolls with lettuce and sweet chili dipping sauce.

Vegetarian Egg Rolls (Makes about 30)

Note: You can use egg roll wrappers for this, but they are usually quite large. I like to use the Wong Ton wrappers due to their smaller size. Doubling up on the wrappers helps prevent tearing and the filling oozing when cooking. You can purchase either wrappers at an asian market or at a larger supper market. There is a difference in texture between rice wrappers or spring roll wrappers, you do not want them for this recipe. 

4 cups of shredded cabbage

1 cup shredded carrot

1 cup shredded celery

1 1/2 cup of small chopped shiitake mushrooms

1 bunch green onions, trimmed and chopped finely

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp freshly grated ginger

sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste

1/4 cup soy sauce, plus more

2-3 cups peanut oil

1 – 2 packages of Wong Tong Wrappers *(see note)

1 head green leaf lettuce- washed,and cut into even hand held pieces

2 tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Sweet Chili sauce for dipping

First, place a large sauté pan (about 10 – 12 inches) over medium heat a heat through. Add the peanut oil and once it is heated though add your cabbage, celery, carrot and mushrooms. keep stirring it until it wilts and most of the moisture that releases from the veggie is cooked out. (You might need to add a bit more of oil if you feel the pan is getting too dry and the veggies are sticking.)

Next; add the ginger, green onion, and garlic over your veggies and stir well. Let is all sizzle together and sprinkle it all with a bit of sea salt and black pepper. Add in the 1/4 cup of soy sauce and stir well and heat through. At this point taste it and see if you feel the seasoning is where you like it and adjust as needed. Place the mixture aside to cool before making your egg rolls.

Then, get all your components together to make your egg rolls. I like to do this all on a cutting board, but a counter or a table works just as well. Place a frying pan filled with about 2 cups of peanut oil over medium heat. Have your wrappers lined up with your veggie filling nearby, along with a small bowl of water. Line up two wrappers at a time, staggering them, scoop a small amount of veggies along the center of the wrappers. Wipe the edges of the wrapper with you finger dipped in the water to moisten the edges. Fold the bottom corner up and over the filling, fold the edges over to cover the bottom, and roll the rest of the egg roll up to seal the top half over it. The moistened edges will help see it together.

Meanwhile, after you seal a few egg rolls your oil should be heated through. Gently lay the egg rolls into the oil, a few at a time, and let them fry until nicely golden rotating to be sure it is evenly cooked on all sides. Once the egg rolls are evenly cooked remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel. Repeat the process, be sure not to wrap all your egg rolls too early or they might dry out or stick together. I prefer to get into a rhythm and do a few at a time.

Finally, once your egg rolls are done you can platter them up with the lettuce along side. Sprinkle the egg rolls with the toasted sesame seeds. Serve with both soy sauce and sweet chili sauce for dipping.

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